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China’s sole ruling party becomes a more exclusive club

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(, Aug01’23) – The membership of the Party that has given itself military-backed extra-constitutional power to run China forever has become more exclusive, with the ruling clique having decided to put further focus on quality rather than quantity to ensure its continued predominance in Chinese society. As a result, the number of those aged below 30 joining the organisation has dropped as prospective members face a stricter recruitment process, reported the Aug 1.

After the mentor in charge of party affairs in his concerned community or institution formally accepts his membership application, the candidate must now get through vigorous political screening by the party committee that lasts two years on average. Over that time, the committee will check that he truly identifies with the party’s ideals and is loyal to its leadership, the report said.

In the case of student applicants, Party committee instruction documents detailing stricter political review of candidates are stated to be posted on the websites of various Chinese universities.

In new rules for party member recruitment released in Oct 2022, the prestigious University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has said the political review of candidates would include their attitude towards the party’s theory and policies, as well as their past “conduct in major political struggles” – which refers to the sensitive periods like Jun 4.

The school has said it would also talk to police and community managers in the students’ hometowns to gather information on their past conduct and any background or criminal records of their family members.

“Political review must be serious, seek truth from facts and focus on one’s consistent performance. The review should form conclusive materials. Those who have not passed the political review cannot join the party,” it was quoted as saying.

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If all goes well, the candidate will hold up his right fist in front of the party flag and be sworn in as a probationary party member next July.

But formal party membership will only come a year later – if the party group is satisfied about his performance during the probation period, the report noted.

“My mentor told me the selection process has become much stricter since last year. Only the ones who served in the military before coming to university, or actively serve in the student union like me, or have substantial voluntary work at times of Covid-19 control will be shortlisted,” Ray Wu, a 20-year-old student at a university in the eastern Jiangsu province, has said, having applied to join the party on Jul 1.

The party’s official statistics were also stated to point to a tightened screening process for new applicants and stepped up oversight of young party members. The Central Organisation Department, the party’s top personnel office, has said the total number of members aged under 30 dropped to 12.43 million last year, a fall of 189,000 or 1.5 per cent, from July 1, 2021.

Most of that drop was stated to have come from university campuses. According to official data, the number of party members who are students fell from 2021’s 3.05 million to 2.9 million last year – a drop of 152,000 or around 5%, the report said.

The party’s tightening of its political screening process for new applications and disciplinary supervision of younger cadres, plus the disruption of Covid-19, were among the key contributors to the lower recruitment number, the report said, citing observers and party officials in charge of recruitment.

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The stricter recruitment process is fully in keeping with the dicta of President Xi Jinping, who is now the paramount leader of China.

In his keynote speech to the party’s disciplinary apparatus in January, Xi was reported to have told anti-corruption watchdogs to “strengthen the education, management and supervision of young cadres” and ensure they “fasten the first button in their political career right”.

Xie Maosong, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Strategic Studies at Tsinghua University, has said the Party was “in no hurry” to cross the 100 million-member mark, as it had already achieved a critical mass to cover every aspect of China. Instead, the party was having “a clearer focus on quality” as it faced struggles with internal and external pressures.

A Beijing-based political researcher has said the screening of prospective party members was going to be further tightened after a slew of Chinese universities saw students protesting against the country’s strict Covid-19 controls in November.

“This is regarded as a political struggle as Beijing indicated there are elements of ‘colour revolution’. Those who are found to have taken part in the protests will have problems to clear their political review,” the researcher has said, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Official media reports have underlined the point that even President Xi Jinping was rejected nine times during his application to become a party member before he was eventually accepted in 1974.

Deng Yuwen, a former deputy editor of Study Times, the Central Party School’s official newspaper, has said the Communist Party of China was perhaps “the most difficult party to join” in the world, as it was established in accordance with the Bolshevik faction founded by Lenin, with an emphasis on a strict power hierarchy. It is a tradition Xi has been pushing to revive and reinforce since he came to power in 2012.”

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Despite the long and stricter screening process, the number of applicants continues to be high because of the great amounts of privileges that the party-member class enjoys in China.

“Party membership is very important for those who are staying in China. It is a prerequisite to most government jobs,” Wu has said.

Besides, Party membership is listed as almost a requirement for undertaking xuan diao sheng exams – a term referring to students who will be selected by the Communist Party’s personnel department to fill vacancies at the grass-roots level.


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